The 37th annual Austin American Statesman Capitol 10,000—Austin’s annual spring fling and the largest 10-K in Texas—gets underway Sunday morning at 8 a.m. at its traditional starting point on S. Congress Avenue at Barton Springs Road, right across the street from the Austin Statesman. Nearly 20,000 runners, walkers and a wide variety of other costumed things are expected. Last year, more than 18,000 participated in the Cap 10.

Conditions for Sunday morning should be seasonal. That is, seasonably warm. The long-range forecast is for cloudy skies with temps in the mid to high 60s when the race begins. And, like many recent Cap 10s, the humidity will be high.

On-line registration for the Capitol 10,000 closes Thursday, but late registration is still available, beginning Friday at noon until 7 at the Palmer Events Center (900 Barton Springs Rd.) and Saturday from 9-6 p.m.

If you’re one of the handful of Austin runners who has never run the Capitol 10,000, you are in for a treat. But be forewarned: The Cap 10 course is not an easy one. Right from the starting line, there are all sorts of ups and steep downs, which when compounded with the expected humidity, can make for difficult running.

In the first mile, the Cap 10 course climbs on a deceivingly tough hill headed north on Congress to the Capitol. From there, the course goes up and down on a short stretch of San Jacinto before the real fun begins on 15th Street. Heading west on 15th, begins the most difficult part of the course with a series of long, grinding hills with the steepest ascent on Enfield between the second and third mile.

The Enfield hills are very tricky and must be ascended carefully. After that though, the running gets much easier on a relatively benign stretch of Winsted (miles three to four) along MoPac which brings the massive field down toward Lake Austin. Just like the past two years, the course heads a couple of hundred meters west on Lake Austin Boulevard before heading down the steep hill at Veterans (across from Magnolia’s at about mile 4).

After swinging around Austin HS, the final 1½ miles heads east along Cesar Chavez where the familiar series of devilish little uphills in the final half mile will test your resolve just before you hit the South 1st Street Bridge in the last stretch to the finish on Riverside along Auditorium Shores. That’s where the post-race party begins.

The course records are Eric Chirchir’s 29:24 (set last year) and Natalie Nalepa’s 33:43, set in 1997.

Chirchir’s course record could actually be threatened again. Two-time Cap 10 champ Scott MacPherson—is returning to try and make history by becoming the first three-time Cap 10 winner. MacPherson, arguably the top native Texan currently racing, will certainly be flirting with his time of 29:58 from 2012. MacPherson, who is originally from Plano, lived in Austinfor a few years after graduating from Arkansas, but now lives in Columbia, Missouri where his fiance is a gymnastics coach. MacPherson, who has a 10-K PR of 28:30, will use Cap 10 as his final tuneup before the Boston Marathon on April 21.

But he’ll face plenty of stiff competition as race director John Conley has put together one of the deepest Cap 10 fields in years. Chirchir will almost certainly be one of the top contenders. The Kenyan is the defending champion with his course record time of 29:24 last year and he has also run the fastest road 10-K in the city of Austin (29:03 in the ’04 IBM Uptown Classic, though a much flatter course than Cap 10).

Some of the other formidable contenders on Sunday include Siyabonga Nkonde—a South African—who won the Austin Half in ’12. Lee Troop, a 40-year-old Australian, is back. He actually won the Cap 10 way back in 1994 in 30:58. Like MacPherson, Troop is using this race as a final test before Boston.

Local stars expected to be among the leaders include Team Mizuno’s heavy hitters: Austin’s Rio Reina and David Fuentes as well as Jose Munoz of San Antonio, Benny Rodriguez of Laredo and Kiya Dandena of Houston. Erik Stanley, who won the Austin Distance Challenge this year, is also planning to run.

Natalie Nalepa’s women’s course record is virtually untouchable. Last year’s winner was Betzy Jimenez who ran 35:27. But it isn’t known whether Jimenez, who ran in the Texas Relays last weekend, will run the Cap 10. Some of the top women who are running include Austin’s Hannah Stefan, Lauren Smith, Jena Kincaid and Jennifer Harney who won the Bearathon Half Marathon in Waco last weekend.

Parking is always an issue for a race of this size. Best places to park are the free TexDot lots off Riverside but those fill up quickly. OneTexas Center has paid parking at South 1st and Barton Springs as does Palmer Events Center. There’s also plenty of parking west of Congress on the north south of Lady Bird Lake.

This year’s race benefits the SafePlace, an agency which hopes to prevent sexual and domestic violence in Travis County.

Packet pickup, pre-race registration and the runners’ expo begins on Friday at the Palmer Events Center and continues through Saturday. There is no packet pick up or registration on race morning.

For more info go to